Journal of Undergraduate Research


politics, Trump, political party, 2016 election, loyalty


Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Political Science


Do voters prioritize party loyalty or personal ideology when casting a ballot? In the contemporary political climate, it is nearly impossible to tell because the two go hand in hand: almost all Democratic candidates are liberal, and almost all Republican candidates are conservative. Consequently, it is difficult to discern, for example, whether a voter supports a Democrat because the candidate is a Democrat, or because the candidate is a liberal. However, Utah’s 2016 presidential election presented a highly unusual opportunity to separate the two factors. In a state consistently dominated by the Republican Party, the collision of a highly unpopular Republican nominee (Donald Trump) and an appealing independent candidate (Evan McMullin), together with the other available options, was a chance to bring into sharp relief the relative strength of partisanship and ideology in determining vote choice. Studying the election’s results sheds new light on party defection and its motivators.